The importance of a mantra. Or a really good song. Or giving up and drinking tea.
Tips to get you through those long runs
I found myself saying to somebody this week, a new runner with pre Parkrun nerves, that your legs will never let you down.
I am so wise. How on earth did I even come out with that BS?
In the days that followed were two unbelievably challenging runs that had me questioning my own wisdom.
Ashby 20 was cancelled and, in my circle of runner friends, we were determined to run 20 miles regardless this weekend, especially as the much coveted hoodie will still be ours. Regardless, that is, of insane weather, niggles, no sleep, lady issues, lack of time, the usual.
I had no choice other than to split my running time over Saturday and Sunday, and ended up running 26 miles in total. On both runs, my companions had some struggles. It’s no surprise, given the weather and the stupidly early start. When they hit the wall, I didn’t know what to do.
Usually, I fill the silence (I hate silence) by being an idiot. But that can just feel awkward. In the end I opted for shutting up until they came through. And they did.
As I am building up the miles and doing back to back long runs at the weekend in prep for my first proper Ultra, the barriers making ‘just running’ a challenge really fascinate me.
I have learned to identify my own challenges on long runs. The first 5k is ALWAYS brutal, and then I tend to have a dip at the halfway mark where I just want to sit down. Other than that, I am a very happy runner.
Having a set distance in mind can be a barrier in itself, as does running in familiar territory, because you are so aware of how long or far you have left. A mile can feel like an age, just like a 10k can whizz by when you’re having fun.
Experience will give you your own set of tricks to help you survive distance running when it feels like a slog. Here are some of my own:
- As a writer, words are powerful to me. I have two statements that I make to myself: ‘It will end’ and ‘It’s only running.’ Even repeating the phrases, until I’ve forgotten how shitty the run is going, can occupy my mind until I’ve got over it.
- I remind myself that nobody is making me do this. It’s meant to be fun. If it isn’t, I go home, have a cup of tea, move on.
- I use visualisation a lot. I imagine ticking the plan on the fridge. I imagine the medal. I imagine what I will say about my run (positive or negative) on social media. I think about the end goal (current goal: finishing a 40 mile Ultra). Visualisation has got me through long runs, spin classes, meetings…
- There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the space you are in — I try to remember to look up, savour not being in a car or office and breathe it in
- I feast on love. Sounds the worst kind of sucky, but thinking about my love for my 5 year old son can give me a boost for a good few miles. I think about getting home and having a big cuddle. I think about his tiny arms around me. I think about his little face in the palm of my hand. I think about the ridiculousness of his world sometimes. It keeps me going and makes me happy.
- A new one comes from something I read about checking form. When my legs are folding and my shoulders drooping, a burst of high knees, deep breaths and strides usually resets my gait and gets me feeling fresh again.
What also fascinates me is how you can tap into this in future when you need it, not just during long runs. Visualisation, positive affirmations, being grateful for the things you have. Or, if none of the above float your boat, just think about chips.
Don’t forget. If you can run, you can kinda do anything. Including eating a few chips.
Thanks for reading.